Learn to prepare Chef Nacho Manzano's world-famous ham croquettes
The charismatic owner of Spain's two-Michelin-star Casa Marcial was recently recognised with the Spanish Gastronomy Award for Best Chef 2021. Here, for the first time, he reveals his recipe for a Spanish classic that's been a staple of his menu for nearly 30 years.
Few people have done more to introduce Spanish cuisine to the world—and the world to Spanish cuisine—than Chef Nacho Manzano.
The Asturias-born chef boasts two of the top restaurants in northern Spain: two-Michelin-star Casa Marcial and one-Michelin-star La Salgar. He's also partner and gastronomic director of Ibérica Restaurants in the United Kingdom, with five restaurants in London. So it's no surprise that he was recently honoured with the Spanish Gastronomy Award for Best Chef 2021 by the Royal Academy of Gastronomy.
So profound are his talents that jury president and culinary legend Ferran Adrià described him as "an extraordinary chef who has it all: incredible gastronomic quality, international vision, great business skills, and an impeccable career."
With Casa Marcial, Manzano has modernised the Asturian gastronomic tradition, elevating the rich variety of local produce, meat, and seafood through both traditional and avant-garde culinary techniques. His ham croquettes are among the restaurant's most popular dishes—and have been on the menu since it opened in 1993—but the recipe has been a tightly held secret, until now.
"Casa Marcial's croquettes [have been] a benchmark in our restaurant and in all our menus since we designed our first menu in 1993," he explains.
While his croquettes have routinely been named the best in Spain, Manzano shares the credit for their popularity with his sister.
"The credit goes to my sister, Esther, who uses her sense of hearing to make sure the croquette is perfect," he explains. "Our ham croquette is light and crispy on the outside and extremely creamy on the inside. Hence, Esther considers the point of the béchamel to be good just by bringing a croquette close to her ear and shaking it."
A traditional Spanish dish, Manzano says the croquettes successfully "rub shoulders" with the more experimental dishes of Casa Marcial's menu and are popular in his UK restaurants as well.
Now, after nearly 30 years, Chef Nacho Manzano shares the recipe for the first time. So clear a space in your kitchen, gather your ingredients, and bring the rich, delicious flavours of Spain into your home, wherever in the world you may be.
Chef Nacho Manzano's Ham Croquettes
Ingredients (for 120 portions)
- 250 grams Serrano ham
- 3 litres whole milk
- 240 grams flour
- 200 millilitres olive oil (soft and light)
- 40 grams butter
- 5 grams salt
- Hand mixer
- Cut the Serrano ham into small squares and gently fry it in the olive oil and butter.
- Once the ham turns a nice golden colour, add the flour. Mix it thoroughly and cook for 4 minutes.
- Heat the milk to boiling point and then stir it in little by little (while hot) to the ham and flour mixture. Gently simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often so it doesn't stick to the pot.
- Lower the heat and continue simmering for 15 minutes until you have a nice béchamel or white sauce.
- Transfer the béchamel to a tray greater than 4 centimetres in depth, covering the bottom of it with the mixture to a thickness of 4 centimetres.
- Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, and then cover it with cling film (the film must rest on the surface of the mixture so it doesn't create a crust). Transfer the tray to the refrigerator until the mixture is firm and has set.
- Next, shape the croquettes into an oval form and the desired size.
- Coat each croquette first with egg, and then with bread crumbs, rolling the croquette through the crumbs fast so it has only a light coating.
- Leave the croquettes in the fridge for 3 hours.
- Fry the croquettes a few at a time so they don't stick to each other or break in a deep fryer at 180 degrees Celsius until they begin to turn brown.
- Dry on paper, serve, and enjoy!
Download the recipe: Ham croquettes